Cob, for those of you who don’t yet know the phrase, is a building technique similar to adobe mound-building. It is composed of clay, sand and straw. The precise recipe is always adapted to the local environment (i.e., you use what you have, like most of the homes on the planet.)
Cobbing is energy-intensive, but earth sustainable, and it requires no special skills, equipment or burdensome expense. One doesn’t rush the process. It is a slow, tribal pursuit, and an artist’s paradise. The creative process springs right up through one’s heart and into the hands during the workday. The cob structure is really more of a sculpture, with infinite possibilities of shapes for windows, walls, built-in furniture, carved and decorated walls….so who wants to rush this process, anyway?
The longer you take, the more ideas can come to you !!!
Over the last 13 years at Wattle Hollow Retreat Center, we have been creating guest lodging using the clay that came out of the foundation preparations. First, lodging (Mother Earth room and Throne room) underneath the main hall, (which is post and beam on a hillside overlooking the pond) and then beginning in 2005 the Cob Castle….continuing with Sea World and most recently the Big Bang.
How it all started….Summer 2001 Cobbing Story
“Having Fun With Mud” cobbing weekend May 11 – 13, 2001 began our second season of cobbing at Wattle Hollow Retreat Center in Northwest Arkansas.
We stomped in the clay pits, mixed up batches with our tarps, and continued to build the outer walls. This included installing quite a few more windows, frou-frou (of course), carving niches and stairways up to the loft and otherwise co-creating this fantasy sanctuary for future Wattle Hollow guests.
The May weekend included yoga classes in the mornings, …dancin’ and music making at night, for those who wished to stretch out weary muscles, or just play. Note: The 2000 cobbing events were NOT formal teaching seminars offering classroom symposiums as none of us participating were qualified to do that. But many of the cobbers present have been studying the techniques, reading the manuals, and have weeks (if not years) of hands-on experience. Instead we created a living laboratory for ” Having Fun With Mud ” here at Wattle Hollow.
The fun in the mud continued with a 10-day Summer 2001 Cob Festival with many additional cobbers spending one or more days in the mud, creating many of the finishing touches on the interior of the guest lodging. And more singing, dancing, yoga and friendship!
“This hands-on journey into an alternative and time-honored technique of cobbing will not only free up possibilities of home – building, it takes us closer to ourselves. It’s a week of sharing, singing, shoveling, co – creating the details of our sculpture to be, laughing, stomping mud, mixing clay, sand and straw, as we watch a building grow up from it’s foundation. It’s grounding.”
~ Joy Fox, writing about the upcoming cobbing workshop at Wattle Hollow in Fall 2001.
Bring on the mud and let the cobbing begin!
….And after the workshop, Joy concludes…
“And it was all TRUE! Friendships became firmly fixed within the kinship of slopping mud, shoveling sand, conjuring up solutions to every obstacle including floods, heat , cold, stubbed toes and sunburn . Dreams took shape and began to solidify themselves in the light of loving encouragement. Everyone went home “fortified”.
More than a learning experience, this was an experience of friendship!
Later Cob Participants wrote…
“Imagine sculpting into the wall of your living room…not only a cozy bench to sit on, but also a convenient indentation to rest your weary head. Cob blows me away.”
– Susanna B., Arkansas
“I had a great time cobbing! What a wonderful way to create community with kind and gentle people in harmony with mother earth. I learned by doing, and now I feel confident enough to start my own cobbing project. ”
“The Cobbing Workshop I attended at Wattle Hollow Retreat Center was a turning point in my recovery from the sudden death of my mother. The bonding I experienced with the participants while working the clay with heart, feet and hands in the wooded setting helped me to become grounded again. I can still hear the joyous call of ‘I need a sister’ as we shaped the walls while working in pairs. I will always treasure the friends I made while there.”
And the “story’ of cobbing at Wattle continues…be sure to check the Schedule for next years Cob Event!
And more ‘history’ below….
Click Sea World images below to view larger size…